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Hartford school fights food insecurities, keeps kids fed over winter break

Over 200 students attend Burns Latino Studies Academy, and many rely on the school for a hot meal. So, the school is working to fill the gap as best they can.

HARTFORD, Conn. — The count down to Christmas is on, as schools across Connecticut gear up for holiday break. But, with that excitement comes heightened food insecurities for the many students who rely on school lunch as their nutritious meal. 

Dr. Victor Cristofaro, principal of Burns Latino Studies Academy in Hartford, said food insecurity is always at the top of my mind, especially during winter and summer vacations. 

RELATED: United Way of Connecticut works to fight food insecurities across the state

"We're so excited for a vacation, but we're also in the back of our minds concerned for our families here and our students," Dr. Cristofaro told FOX61.

More than 200 students from culturally-diverse backgrounds attend Burns Latino Studies Academy. Cristofaro explained that many of the students rely on the school for a hot meal.

"When they're in school, we provide breakfast, and we provide lunch," Dr. Cristofaro said. "And then those students that are in the after-school program also get supper. So, we have quite a few students that get three meals from us a day."

Students are stocked with nutritional foods to take home every Friday through a program, Blessings in a Backpack, funded by Newman's Own Foundation, to supplement those meals when they're not in school. 

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Samantha Burgan with the Newman's Own Foundation said they are helping fill the gaps to set kids up for a lifetime of nutrition eating. She added that now more than ever; it's vital that children and families are both food and nutrition secure. 

"Children are especially vulnerable here in Connecticut," Burgan explained. "We have about 130,000 children who are nutrition insecure."

She said Black and brown communities are most impacted. 

"Across the country, it's about one in three Black households that are living in poverty, about one in four Hispanic households, and we know that the need is so great," Burgan explained.

This is why Dr. Cristofaro said holiday breaks could be challenging, but they're working to fill the gap as best they can. 

"We are going to send some extra food home and which is really the most that we could do," Cristofaro added. "So we're going to double up on bags and send them home with some extra stuff for the week. But it's going to weigh on our minds and we're going to be thinking about our families and hoping that you know that they have what they need."

He said just in case, there will also be an emergency food pantry available at the school if families are in need during the holiday break.

RELATED: Salvation Army in Willimantic facing critical toy shortage ahead of its annual toy distribution

Raquel Harrington is the race and culture reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at rharrington@fox61.comFollow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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